Author's Note: The concluding segment. All Emily, picks up right where the last one ended.
I went back and added some more details to it and we topped out at a hefty 2700 words! The longest one yet. And I'm kind of impressed at that. Given the size of the first round drafts I honestly thought this whole little story, in total, would top out at about 2000 words or so. It's almost three times that. But I do so ramble :)
One little side note that I'll be putting on all my active stories to catch everyone. In the midst of my technical difficulties the past few weeks, I lost a few reviews I was responding to. In that I already had the review response window open and the thing crashed or (in one instance) was rebooted by the Comcast man, and they all went bye bye. That was perhaps as many as a half dozen. So, if you took the time to write me a review and I never got back to you, that is most likely the reason. Because with the exception of one girl who I specifically had in my head, I couldn't figure out who got lost in the shuffle. So a general thank you :) and if you had a question about something that I hadn't answered please shoot me a note and I'll be happy to respond.
Prompt Set #7
Show: China Beach
Title Challenge: One Giant Leap
My Great Unknown
I step off the elevator holding my child in my arms. In the car Lucy asked, "where we go Mumma?" and I told her we were going for a ride to see Mumma's friend.
Of all the labels that Aaron has ever . . . or will ever . . . hold in my life, I believe that one to be permanent.
He will always be my friend.
I take a deep breath and walk slowly down the hall to the door of his apartment. An apartment I have not been to in more than three years. I'm nervous. I should have called first.
Then I feel a pang of guilt . . . I should have called period.
It's been three days since our kiss and we've had no communication since. He doesn't know what I've done. Taken the life that I had, the life that I thought I wanted, that I thought made me happy . . . and thrown it away.
My husband, my sweet, understanding husband who never deserved this pain, his only response to my request for a divorce was, "I've been waiting for this day to come."
That was it. No surprise, no anger. Simply resignation and acceptance.
I would have felt better if he'd hated me.
For almost a minute I stand in front of Aaron's door. This is the choice I've made. This is the life that I want.
The one with him.
My daughter begins to fidget in my arms and I know that it's time. I ring the bell . . . and I wait.
I wait for so long that my spirits begin to fall as I start to think that he isn't home. And then the door whips open, startling me.
It's Saturday and he has his son with him. A little boy that I know will be six years old next month. As I'd seen from his pictures, he looks just like his father.
Aaron's shirt is wet and Jack is wrapped up in a towel so I can see that I've interrupted bath time.
As Aaron sees me standing there with my daughter, and the small duffel bag on my shoulder, his eyes brighten in a way that I've never seen before.
We stare at each other for a moment, each with a child on our hip. Then I smile nervously at him and a slow grin spreads across his face.
Relief floods my heart . . . it's okay. It's all going to be okay now.
I tip my head down, "this is Lucy."
He smiles at my daughter, "hi Lucy."
She grins back at him.
Usually she hides her face in my neck when strangers speak to her. Perhaps she smiled because he also has a small child. Or perhaps she smiled just because she likes him.
I hope it's the latter.
He looks back at me and then nods to his own child, "this is Jack."
My eyes crinkle, "hi Jack."
His son very politely responds, "hello ma'am," and then he flashes the same dimple at my Lucy that his father did to me three days before.
She giggles in delight and reaches over to touch his face. And to my amusement . . . he lets her.
Aaron moves back, holding the door open for us. I step over the threshold and into his apartment.
My heart warms as I see the slight clutter of a home with a small child.
Toys on the floor, little shoes not put where they're supposed to be. A plastic Scooby Doo bowl on the table which holds the remnants of a dinner of macaroni and cheese.
It's all familiar, and I know then that we could be happy here.
Aaron looks down at me, "make yourself comfortable, we'll be right back." He and his son disappear down the hall and into one of the side rooms. My daughter and I stand in the middle of the living room looking at their things.
It's nice, cozy. And it's obvious that there are no women living here. That hadn't occurred to me before . . . just because he missed me didn't mean that he hadn't moved on. That he hadn't tried to be happy with someone else just as I had.
That would have been a bitter irony if I'd shown up here today and a woman had answered the door.
I don't think my heart could have taken that. But fortunately it's clear that it's just him and his son.
As I stand there, breathing slowly in and out, I know that I am welcome, that I am wanted. But still, I feel shy, uncertain.
Is it possible that it truly could be this simple?
That I could just walk through that door and begin a new life.
My daughter is too young to understand what's going on. To understand that I have taken her from her father and that we won't be going back. And for her innocence I am more grateful than I can say. Though I feel guilt for separating Lucy from her other parent, for hurting him this way, I don't feel regret. Because I'm certain that if I had stayed with him any longer that I would have grown to hate him.
To resent him for not being the man that I wanted him to be.
Now we can part with pain but no bitterness. He said he knew on our wedding day, when he saw Aaron and I dancing, that his time with me had an expiration date. But still he stayed because he loved me and he thought maybe he could make me happy.
And I do love him. When someone adores you that much, to sacrifice his own sense of self in the hope of simply making you happy, how can you not feel something for that person in return? But he deserves so much better than what I was able to give him. My feelings for Aaron have always dwarfed any affection I've had for my husband.
But he was the man who he gave me my Lucy so I can't truly regret our time together.
I see Aaron and Jack coming back down the hall. Jack's now dressed in his footed pajamas. My eyes crinkle as I see that they have little police cars on them. And then his son races past me to the corner of the living room.
He begins to pull out his videos.
As he takes one in his hand . . . I see its Shrek . . . he looks at it, and then he looks at my daughter and shakes his head. He turns back to pull out another movie, and then nods his approval to himself before he hands it to his father.
"This one Daddy."
I see that he has pulled out a movie that is clearly too young for him now. And tears spring to my eyes as realize that he picked it for my daughter.
This little boy has his father's kind heart.
Aaron puts in the video and then turns to me with a little smile as he gestures to Lucy, "it's okay Emily, you can put her down."
I look at him and then I look at her, big brown eyes sparkling as she watches his son from a few feet away.
My daughter is only two, but I'm pretty sure that she's in love with the boy that flashed the dimple at her.
I know the feeling.
And I realize Aaron's right. It is okay. So I place her on the ground and she runs over to sit down on the carpet next to her new friend.
As the familiar music of Bananas in Pajamas fills the room, Aaron takes the bag off of my shoulder and puts it behind the couch. Then his hand is on my back as he guides me from the room.
We go down the same hall he just returned from, this time entering a different door than he and Jack had entered. I see that it's his bedroom, but I know that he's just brought me here for privacy.
If you have small children and you want a moment alone, then you will need a door.
He shuts the precious door behind us and turns to me, nervously biting his lip. And then he reaches over and picks up my hand, running his thumb over the slight discoloration where my wedding rings once lived.
I hadn't taken them off once in three years. And I cried this afternoon when I put them in an envelope and left them on the kitchen table.
Beyond Aaron's few words in the living room, we've said nothing to one another besides the introduction of our children.
That was a lot. But there's so much more to say. So much more to tell him.
And I don't know where to begin.
The seconds tick away in silence as he holds my hand in his, running his thumb back and forth over that white circle. It takes me only a moment of indecision before I take two steps forward and wrap my arms around his waist.
I had thrown away everything for him, the least I was going to get in return was a hug.
His arms encircle me, and he tips his head down to rest against mine.
Of all the hugs he's given me over the past three and a half years, this was the best one.
Fortunately my movement broke not only our stance, but our silence as well, and he whispers in my ear.
"I wouldn't have lasted much longer."
Tears burn my eyes as I shake my head, my cheek brushing against his chest.
He kisses the top of my head and I sniffle into his t-shirt, "could we stay with you until I find a place?"
I know that the house is still my home, but I don't belong there anymore. We're seeing the lawyers on Monday, and I've been sleeping on the couch for the last three days. I couldn't find the courage to knock on Aaron's door until the weekend, when I was sure that he would be home.
There's a moment of silence, and I'm afraid I've overstepped, but then I hear his voice come back choked with emotion, "you guys can stay with me forever," he pulls me tighter to his chest, "please don't leave me again Emily."
He kisses the top of my head again and the tears begin to run down my face. They are both happy and sad. Tears for the time lost, but also for all the years now ahead.
And then we hear a knock at the door, and a little voice saying tentatively, "daddy, the movie's stuck," and I smile.
Hotch leans back and gives me a sheepish grin. But no apology is needed.
This is my life too.
He projects his voice towards the door, "coming buddy," and then he wipes the tears from my face before he leans down and gives me a quick kiss. When he pulls back I reach up to wipe the lipstick from his mouth.
This is all new, and it would be best if our children didn't see us interacting like this right away.
He takes my hand and opens the door. We look down to see Jack and Lucy standing there. Lucy's lower lip is sticking out in a little pout as she says sadly.
"Bananas went bye bye."
Aaron lets go of my hand and stoops down to her level. He reaches over to pick up her little fingers as he says sympathetically, "it's okay sweetheart, I'll get the bananas back for you."
Jack runs back to the living room as Aaron picks up my daughter, asking if she'd like some juice. She looks over at me, and at my nod she gives him a shy smile. When I see the corner of his mouth go up in response, I am suddenly filled with love for both of them.
It was a fear I hadn't voiced to myself. What if they didn't take to one another? What if my heart was twisted between them? Thankfully, for once my fears were unfounded.
With Lucy on his hip, Aaron reaches out and takes my hand again.
Suddenly I feel complete. Everything is right now. This is my family. This is exactly what I wanted. This world.
I let him lead me down to the kitchen where he hands me a juice box from the fridge. And then we go to the living room where he walks me to the couch. And with my daughter still in his arms, Aaron leans down to the cabinet and takes the movie from the machine. He blows on it once before asking Lucy to do the same. She giggles at his request and then the two of them together once more huff on the shiny disk before he wipes it on his t-shirt.
Once he's sure it's clean, Aaron looks at Lucy and a dimple appears by his mouth right before he blows a puff of air in her face. Her eyes shut as her bangs are ruffled. And then she opens her lids once more, clearly enthralled with him as she claps and giggles.
Aaron huffs another quick puff of air in her direction, and at her grin he bites his lip as he looks at me over her shoulder.
I know that little smile on his face. He once had that just for me. Back then I didn't know what it meant, but now I do.
He adores her.
Love at first sight. It was more than I could have hoped for.
He leans back down and lets her help him put the movie in. And a moment later, when the bananas once more appear on the screen, she again laughs and claps her hands.
Life is so much simpler when you're two. It's easy to be happy.
This time when Aaron sees Lucy's obvious delight in such a small thing, the smile he gives her is broad and true.
I remember then that this is why we have children. They bring us joy.
Aaron gives Lucy a kiss on the forehead as he tells her proudly, "you did a good job helping sweetheart."
She smiles at him and touches his face as she did his son's a short while ago.
Tears sting my eyes.
I know that my child already has a daddy, but from this day on she'll be spending more time with the man holding her than she will be with the man who fathered her. That is a sad fact of divorce and custody. The mother usually gets primary care and the father gets visitation. Not that I would give up my child to anyone, but in Aaron's case I saw the pain that brought him and it saddens me to bring such upset to my own family.
But all things considered, given the limitations on the time that Lucy will have with my soon to be ex, I am simply grateful that my suppositions were correct.
Aaron is a good dad.
So even if he couldn't be Lucy's real daddy, he will make an excellent surrogate father for my child.
He walks back over to the couch and passes my daughter to me. I hand her the juice box as he sits down next to us. Only a second passes before he hesitantly slips my free hand into his.
Our fingers slowly curl together. We are allowed to do this now.
It's an adjustment for both of us.
I look to our children, laughing as they watch the giant bananas on the television. And then I look down to see my hand nestled in his.
A warm glow spreads out from the center of my chest, filling me as it runs through my body and right to the tips of my fingers and my toes.
For the first time I'm truly, completely, deliriously . . . happy.
My head tips over to Aaron's shoulder and I whisper in his ear, "I love you."
His fingers tighten around mine as he whispers back, "I love you too."
With a smile I cuddle into his side, my daughter sitting between us. I know now that it's never too late to change your path. It's never too late to find your soul mate.
After all . . . I move our joined hands to my lap . . . I found mine.
A/N 2: And . . . we're done. Somebody - you know who you are ;) - commented that it was different with Emily having her own child to consider. Usually it's just Hotch in that boat. I kind of enjoyed that element. It made them more "compatible." You know, it's no longer tough single girl Emily adjusting to being around Jack. She's just a mom and he's just a dad and they live in the same world and now they're trying to blend a new family together.
I may have said this before but I liked writing this one quite a bit. The style is very freeing. There's no pressure to keep the picture balanced, it's all about being that one person and just feeling what they feel in that moment. And given I did sadness and longing and happiness in this one, I'm thinking it might be really interesting to do one that's focused on different emotions like fear and terror. Which segue ways nicely into my next announcement.
The TV Challenge: I put up our new bonus today, Halloween story! This should be really fun, there are a ton of prompts so even if you don't write H/P, please check it out and maybe you'll see something that'll give you an idea. And starting in October I'll be putting up my next full horror one. Sadly not the sequel yet to The Snake Pit, something else. I've already started it and I'm hoping to be done before I post a word. But I'm definitely going to try and do a horror story all in this first person style too. That could be very upsetting to read. At least one can only hope :)
Girl update perhaps later tonight, most likely later tomorrow. Sunday is free museum day so I'll be off checking out mummies for a good portion of the daylight hours.
Feedback would be lovely :)